Archive for July, 2015

How the universe gave me a lesson in humility


Last week I was taught a big lesson in humility by the universe.  Life lessons are rarely easy and often sent to us with such impeccable timing it is hard not to laugh at the synchronicity of it all.

I arrive at the national gym chain where I teach my yoga class.  I go to the studio to prepare my music  (I like to do yoga to the likes of George Ezra and Phillip Phillips).  I plugged in my iPhone, rolled out my mat and glanced at the clock.  Exactly seven minutes before class is due to start.  I love the number seven and was feeling pretty good about life.

If I have not already managed my own practice that day I like to spend a few minutes before class warming up so that I can at least touch my toes!  I also like to spend that short time thinking about what I will say at the beginning of class.  It is nice to start the lesson with a few words about some aspect of yoga philosophy.  I decided that I would talk about how there is no room for ego in yoga.  How it is about your own particularly journey back to yourself.  That it does not matter what the person on the mat next to you can do.  That you should not compare yourself to them.  I have a deep belief that ego is a very dangerous thing and responsible for so much of our worlds destruction so it is a matter close to my heart.  Now I say this but somewhere in the back of my mind is the awareness that there is a degree of ego attached to teaching.  There you stand in front of people, knowing something they do not and being able to physically do things they can not.  I am acutely aware of this and yet it still sits there in me.  I admit I get a kick out of the fact that I am probably well past my half way mark in life and able to do things with my body that most of the class cannot do despite being decades younger than me.  I hope I use it to inspire but I suspect that at times it feeds my ego.  It is a human thing.

Inhaling deeply I stretched up in Tadasana (mountain pose) and folded forward to Padahastasana reaching to place my hands flat on the mat in front of my feet. Something I do every single day at the start of my practice.  As I did this I felt a sharp and rather excruciating pain in my lower left back.  I collapsed onto my knees and muttered some exceptionally non yogi words under my breath. Actually I think I said them quite loudly! I tried to stand and could hardly straighten up.  I am sure you can imagine some of the very unpleasant things that were being uttered by me at this time.  I stayed on all fours and tried to roll my spine.  This was not good.

Only minutes to go and no time to call in another teacher.  Deep breaths Niki.  Deep breaths.  Keep calm and carry on. The doors open and bright eyed students appear with all the eagerness of the sun making its way into a new day.  Meanwhile my eyes are watering as if I have been peering into that sun for far too long.

I welcome everyone and go with what I had planned for this particular class.  I inhale deeply and talk of ego and how there is no room for it in our lives…and so we begin our practice.  I was able to do forward bends and most of the balances, however there was not even the tiniest hint of hope that my back was going to go past the vertical.

Humility.  I explain to the class that I had hurt my back and how yoga teaches us to be aware of our bodies and surrender to what they cannot do and rejoice in what they can.  I then tuck my ego firmly where it should be and ask a student to demonstrate all the poses that are quite frankly completely inaccessible to me right now.

Believe me when I say this was not easy. I admit I had to dig deep to find that humility.

Those guys upstairs must have been listening to my every thought and delivered that message to me with astonishingly beautiful timing.

What have I learnt from this.  I have learnt to show a certain tenderness to those students that find poses difficult.  I have learnt that I too must surrender to what my body cannot do and love it for what it can.  Most of all I have learnt that lessons will come to you at a time when you least expect them and you might not always like it but you really have no choice but to be as graceful as you can possibly be in that moment.

We are here to learn and grow.  To always try and be a better person tomorrow than we are today and   to try to do that with as much grace and kindness as we can muster.  When we don’t be sure that the universe will come along and give you a big flat slap as a reminder.






What would you do if your future where a blank page?



Imagine if you will for a moment that you get to start over.

You wake up tomorrow and you get to re-invent yourself.  What would you do and where would you live?  You are still you, same body and same mind but you get to design your life.  Where would you choose to live?  What new career would you think about doing?  How would you change your diet and exercise program? What would you change about your yourself?

Sit down with a blank piece of paper and write down what you would like your life to look like.  Don’t think in terms of money.  Think about how you want to live your life.  The type of person you want to be.  Your character and purpose.  Lets make up a theoretical person.  He wants to be fit and strong.  He wants to practice meditation daily, write children’s adventure books for a living, live near the beach and surf every weekend.   Nothing too complicated.  He wants to live a simple, healthy, purposeful life doing something he loves.  Probably much the same principles as we all have.

So our theoretical person currently does not bother to exercise and eats junk food.  He does not know how to meditate, lives in a city and works as a debt collector for a law firm.  It’s pretty obvious isn’t.  He can start by getting up earlier and hitting the gym.  Give up the junk food and attend meditation classes.  Give up his cable TV subscription and spend his evenings writing.  You can see where this is going.  It might take a while but a couple of years down the line he is strong and fit.  He has finished his first book and is in the process of getting it published.  He meditates regularly and took a beach holiday where he signed up for surfing lessons.  Now his life looks a whole lot more like the one on paper than the one he used to live.

How does it feel for you to have this blank piece of paper? Does it feel scary?  Does it feel exciting?  Does it look anything like the life you live?  If it does not look anything like the life you live now then what on earth are you doing?  Seriously!  Yes I know you have to put a roof over your head and food on the table but….you can start by writing down what that life looks like and then start inventing it one day at a time.

You have this amazing opportunity here on earth in this life you are living.  Why would you not be living it the way you want?  What is stopping you being the person you want to be?  It might take a while and it might take a lot of hard work but the rewards will be unimaginable and it is never too late.



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